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Marcos emphasized the need to cut bureaucratic red tape in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in order to decrease the burden on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
SONA High Priority: Provide Automated Services on OEC and Contract Verification for OFWs – PBBM
According to the Philippine News Agency, Marcos directed the DMW to collaborate with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on the digitalization of OFW documentation.
“We shall automate the verification of contracts and issue secure Overseas Employment Certifications (OEC) that you can keep on your smartphone. I call on the Department of Migrant Workers and the DICT to make this a top priority,” he said in a speech delivered at Batasan Complex in Quezon City.
The OEC, also known as an exit clearance or pass, is a document that attests to the legitimacy of an OFW’s recruitment and documentation and serves as proof of registration with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Susan Ople, Secretary of Migrant Employees, previously stated her intention to streamline existing procedures in order to deliver “better, efficient, and transparent” automated services to overseas workers.
She also stated that she is prioritising a study of the POEA’s rules and regulations, particularly its contract verification and issuing mechanism, in order to streamline the agency’s key frontline functions using automated services.
The OEC has also been mentioned in President Marcos’ SONA as one of the documents that will soon go digital using automated services. The POEA has been overwhelmed with applications from OFWs who want to renew their employment certificates or apply for new ones. It has been reported that many have waited for hours just to submit their papers and verify their contracts with their employers abroad.
Faster and More Efficient OFW Transactions
Marcos also wanted to shorten the processing time using automated services for foreign Filipino workers from three months to three weeks.
“Mula sa tatlong buwan ay gagawin na lamang nating tatlong linggo para sa isang dayuhang employer na i-proseso ang mga papeles ng Filipinong nais nitong kunin bilang empleyado (Instead of three months, we will make it just three weeks for a foreign employer to process the papers of Filipinos they want to hire),” he said.
To make government interactions with OFWs easier, Marcos authorised the printing of booklets to replace the OFW handbook, which serves as a reference for migrant workers’ rights and provides information to help them handle their challenges and concerns.
“Aatasan din natin ang kagawaran na gawing simple ang kumplikadong handbook ng mga tuntunin at regulasyong para sa mga OFW, nang sa gayon ay maging maalwan ang mga transaksiyong may kinalaman sa kanilang pangingibang-bansa (We will also direct the department to make the complicated handbook for OFWs simple to help them understand the transactions for their foreign employment),” he said.
“Mula sa handbook na may 240 seksyon ay gagawin nating pamphlet na lamang ito na hindi hihigit sa isandaang pahina. Mahirap na nga ang buhay, kaya naman ayaw na nating makitang lalo pang nahihirapan ang ating mga manggagawang mandarayuhan sa pagtupad sa kanilang mga pangarap (From 240 sections contained in the handbook, we will just make it less than 100 pages through the issuance of a pamphlet. Life is already difficult, and we do not want our migrant workers to find it difficult to fulfill their deams),” Marcos added.
Help OFWs who are Jobless
Marcos also directed the DMW to seek assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for OFWs who had been laid off.
He urged the DFA to provide the immediate hiring of unemployed OFWs.
Marcos also said that Ople would travel to Saudi Arabia to discuss the purpose of lifting the ban on the deployment of Filipino employees abroad.
“Sa mga susunod na buwan ay magtutungo si Secretary Susan Ople sa Saudi Arabia upang tiyakin na may sapat na puwersang magsisiguro na mabubuksang muli ang empleyo sa bansa, at para maisulong ang ating kampanya laban sa human trafficking (In the coming months, Secretary Susan Ople will go to Saudi Arabia to discuss the deployment of workers in the host country and push for the administration’s campaign against human trafficking),” he said.
This comes after he vowed that if the deployment ban is lifted, OFWs’ rights would be protected.
“Sa ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa (To our fellow countrymen living and working abroad): You deserve a Home in Government not only for the money you send home, but for you are not cold tools of the economy. You deserve it for your sacrifices, for our country and your perseverance and excellence in the global arena,” Marcos said.
One Repatriation Command Center
Marcos further stated that the One Repatriation Command Center has been formed to provide immediate support to OFWs in need.
“Para sa mga kababayan nating naiipit sa kaguluhan, inaabuso, at nanganganib ang buhay, ikinagagalak kong sa ilalim ng aking pamumuno, ay inilunsad ang One Repatriation Command Center or ORCC (For our fellow countrymen who are experiencing abuse or in danger, the One Repatriation Command Center has been established under my watch),” he said.
OFWs in distress or their immediate family should call the ORCC hotline “1-348.”
The command centre, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has three shifts of case and welfare officers, can handle phone calls, walk-ins, and scheduled appointments.
Weekend requests can be submitted by dialling 1-348.
Marcos also promised to support the children of foreign Filipino workers with their education.
“You represent the fighting faith of the Filipinos as a nation and as a people. Let us transform your overseas journey into inspirational stories for all time,” Marcos said.